Student Achievement

Forum Explores Best Uses of Expanded Learning Time

By Nora Fleming — May 18, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I spent the last two days immersed in a forum on expanded learning time where leading policymakers and educators discussed how after-school hours, the summer months, and the school day itself could be restructured and revaluated to make learning more engaging and help close the achievement gap.

The event, “Reimagining the School Day: A Forum on More Time for Learning,” was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation and held here in Washington. As I mentioned the other day, there has been an increasing effort at the federal, state, and local levels to reevaluate how much time our students spend in and out of school and how they spend that time.

Throughout the conference, speakers and participants emphasized that strengthening accountability, improving data tracking, and building community partnerships and sustainability were fundamental to developing expanded learning time programs, but that there wasn’t a definitive answer for how to add time to deliver better education.

“Time ‘well-used’ can make a difference, but what does ‘well-used’ actually mean, and how do we segregate it without it being an experiment?” Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville asked one panel of participants.

Reville said that the time itself is not enough to produce results and that educators need to ensure they have more evaluation mechanisms in place before simply adding more time to the school calendar. Too much experimentation could lead to money spent for great variability in caliber and effectiveness of new education models, he said.

But speakers Sue Bodilly, research director at the Association of American Medical Colleges and former director of RAND Education, and Elena Silva, senior policy analyst with Education Sector, said that experimentation was part of the process.

For the most part, they said, imagining time in new ways means developing enriching and engaging programming that builds academic skills and supports “whole child development,” not adding more of the same “drill and kill” found in the standard day. In most cases, the models will vary depending on site needs.

Yet, panelist Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, said sometimes the practical and logistical concerns on the ground level are actually more of an impediment than how to redesign time spent in school or in out-of-school-time programs. Ronan discussed her Fifth Quarter program, which I wrote about the other day. It added a month to the school year for 16 underperforming schools in Cincinnati, with a combination of core academics and academic enrichment.

“If I could wave a magic wand, my whole school year would look like our Fifth Quarter program,” said Ronan. “But we [currently] have a model we cannot afford and we cannot sustain that won’t give us the results we need to get.” Ronan stressed that while the community was supportive of such programs, budget cuts and federal accountability requirements through standardized testing made implementation and sustainability extremely challenging.

Moving forward, I’ll be continuing reflections on The Wallace forum and expanded learning time.

[Disclosure: The Wallace Foundation also provides grant support for Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.]

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Achievement Schools Straddle the Pandemic and Familiar Headwinds in Quest to Boost Quality
The latest Quality Counts summative grades show stubbornly average performance by the nation's schools overall, despite pockets of promise.
1 min read
Illustration of C letter grade
Student Achievement Spotlight Spotlight on Learning Gaps
In this Spotlight, analyze where learners – and educators – are in their learning process; see what other leaders are planning, and more.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Whitepaper
The Tutoring Solution: Exclusive Survey Findings
A white paper commissioned by Kelly Education and published by the EdWeek Research Center finds that parents and educators alike are on b...
Content provided by Kelly Education
Student Achievement Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Student Achievement?
Quiz Yourself: How is your district doing with student achievement?